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Friday, 9 November 2012

On This Day in Typewriter History: Sugimoto's Japanese Typewriter

PART 168
On this day (November 7) in 1916, Kyota Sugimoto applied for a US patent for his Japanese language typewriter. Four years later Sugimoto also patented a typecasting machine.
Sugimoto’s was the first practical Japanese language typewriter, using 2400 of the most common characters from as many as 100,000 kanji characters.
Such was the enormity of this achievement, Sugimoto was included among Japan’s 10 greatest inventors in a 1985 list compiled for its centenary celebrations by the Japanese Patent Office.
In Antique Typewriters, Michael Adler said Sugimoto’s “patent became the prototype of the modern machine used in [Japanese] until the advent of the word processor”.
Sugimoto was born in Okayama on September 20, 1882. He moved to Osaka in 1899 and trained at a telegraph technical institute there, graduating in 1901.
Sugimoto went on to specialise in typography, designing and assembling wooden type for letterpress  printing. In 1914 he moved to Tokyo to embark on his typewriter project.
His 1915 Japanese patent (number 27877) was extended to the US at a time when he was living at 13 Toyooka Cho, Machi, Mita, Shiba Ku, Tokyo. The design was assigned in equal third parts to himself, to Jin’nosuki Sugimoto and to Nihei Otani [Jibei Otani].
Sugimoto described his machine as consisting of a “type-nest partitioned into a large number of compartments to receive types, of inking and printing devices …”. He went on to point out that “characters are printed in vertical lines, commencing at the rightmost line from the top to the bottom, then the line next to the left from the top to the bottom, and so on.”
In May 1917, Otani (also Ohtani) established the Nippon Typewriter Company with 30 million yen capital.
The company is now part of the Canon empire.  Production started in Mita, Minato, Tokyo, with the machines selling for 180 yen.
See here for a description of how the Sugimoto typewriter works.
Sugimoto was honoured for his achievement with a Blue Ribbon Award in 1953 and a Small Asahi Ribbon Award in 1965. He died, aged 90, on December 26, 1972.
Sugimoto's 1920 typecasting machine.

1 comment:

Richard P said...

It's a clever invention, yet I still don't really understand its purpose. It has to be faster to write Japanese by hand. Maybe for people with poor calligraphy?